When Henry’s just shy of a year old Emma finally feels secure, like she is a good mother. Six days a week she wakes up at six am, gets Henry ready for the day and walks the two blocks to the diner. Granny usually takes Henry into the back room and looks after him – saying she’s tired of dealing with customers, (but really just missing the little guy)– while Ruby and Emma run the diner. Emma takes Henry when her shift ends at two and they run some errands, or go to the park if it’s nice enough out, or just head back home if it’s been a particularly tiresome day.
While Emma complains to Ruby about work being boring seeing the exact same people day after day (since Granny’s is almost completely populated by regulars), Emma secretly loves it. She loves the feeling of community in the small town diner, she loves being away from the city where she has too many bad memories, she loves Granny and Ruby and Henry and she loves the way it feels like family. So when Granny calls begging Emma to come in on her day off because one of the other waitresses is sick with the flu, Emma doesn’t think twice before agreeing.
On Sunday mornings the diner doesn’t open until 8 and Granny hadn’t called until 7:30, so Emma has to rush to get out the door with Henry on time. The bell chimes over the door as Emma walks in to the already open diner, with Henry balanced half asleep on her hip. The difference between Sunday and the rest of the week is noticeable. Every table at the diner is occupied and there’s a hum of conversation filling the air. Granny rushes up to Emma the moment she walks inside, taking Henry from her with a smile and throwing off her apron before fleeing to the back room.
It turns out to be one of Emma’s busiest shifts ever, and she barely recognizes any of the patrons even though it seems like most of the customers are regulars since the other wait staff call them by name. Emma, on the other hand is slightly flustered, running about like a chicken with its head cut off. She manages to handle the insanity that is the morning rush until the diner quiets down around noon.
A man sitting quietly at the far end of the counter catches her attention for a refill. She can tell by that devilish smirk on his face that he’s trouble. She walks to him and smiles at him as she refills his coffee anyway.
“You new here lass?” he asks her, and of course he has an accent.
Emma turns away from him to return the coffee pot back to the stand. “No,” she says, turning back around to wipe down the counter. “I’ve worked here for about six months.”
“Are you sure, because I know I’d remember meeting someone like you,” though his words seem innocent enough, the intent in his eyes is most definitely not – but Emma Swan is not easily flustered.
She rolls her eyes. “I bet you say that to all the ladies,” she says walking away.
Ruby was walking behind the man during the exchange and thumps him lightly upside the head. “Cut it out Killian, and eat your food.”
He smiles sheepishly at Ruby and gives Emma a sort of half bow before resuming his meal.
After that he sort of becomes a staple at the counter, most days he comes in around one and stays at least until Emma leaves. After seeing him six days in a row, with nothing more than flirtatious small talk, that she absolutely does not return – at least not intentionally – well, at least not overtly – she asks him if he’s stalking her.
For the first time since she’s met him, he seems flustered, rubbing at a spot just behind his ear and ducking his head before speaking. “No, I just asked Ruby what time I’d have to get here to see you – but not in a creepy way – in a ‘I am a completely normal patron and just want to see that cute waitress again’ sort of way. I just come in at one now instead of three.”
Emma bites back the smile that’s trying to break free and puts on a serious face. “Well as long as it’s completely innocent,” she says.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks Emma gets to know him, chatting with him during the lull between the lunch and dinner crowds. Two weeks after they met he asked her out once, which admittedly scared the crap out of her – she’d said no and figured that would be the end of that – he’d go back to coming in at three and she’d only see him in passing. But she couldn’t have been more wrong; he still came in every day at one and flirted with her unabashedly. Emma wasn’t sure if she was disappointed he didn’t try asking her out again or not.
One day, almost two months after meeting him, Henry comes running (his new favorite pastime) out of the back room, and latches onto Killian’s leg, only realizing a moment too late that he’d clutched a stranger, and immediately begins wailing.
Emma comes out from around the counter and scoops him up into her arms, soothing his tears into silence. Granny comes out from the back room apologizing with a huff that she’d been chasing the little monster around all morning. Emma smiles at Granny and sits down with Henry in her lap on the stool next to Killian.
“Is this your boy?” he asks, rather unnecessarily since Henry’s hands are currently wrapped in her hair and necklace as he climbs on her as though she were a jungle gym – scary encounter with the stranger sitting next to them already forgotten.
Emma nods with a smile and shifts so she and Henry are facing Killian. “Henry,” she says, pulling his attention away from trying to swallow a clump of her hair, “this is my friend Killian.”
Henry buries his face into Emma’s neck, peering out shyly at Killian before hiding again. Killian smiles and reaches out a hand bopping Henry on the nose, making him giggle.
“It’s good to meet you little lad,” he says, and Emma tries to ignore the fluttering of her heart with the way Henry is looking at Killian as though he’s trying to figure him out.
Henry wriggles out of Emma’s lap a few moments later and tries to climb up into Killian’s.
“Not so shy any more, is he?” Killian says with a laugh, pulling Henry up into his lap.
Emma can’t help feeling surprised at herself for letting Killian meet Henry. She isn’t sure if she’s more surprised at herself or at this man who can flirt like there is no tomorrow, yet look at her son as though he is something precious.
Emma has always been cautious letting anyone near Henry, but it seems like her son is getting a mind of his own. Over the following few weeks every time Killian comes into the diner Henry breaks free of Granny’s watchful eye (as though he has a sixth sense about when Killian enters) and comes bursting out into the diner.
At first he’d shyly cling to Emma, but each time Killian talks to him or plays some game with him, and soon it becomes routine for Henry and Killian to sit together in a booth doing some activity together while Granny takes a break from watching Henry. Sometimes when the diner isn’t too busy, Emma joins them. It feels weird – well scratch that, it feels right and that’s what feels weird.
Soon enough Henry stops clinging to Emma, and the first day he runs straight into Killian’s outstretched arms Emma isn’t sure if she wants to laugh or to cry.
“You should hang out with him outside of the diner,” Ruby says one day after catching Emma staring at Henry and Killian reading a book together – one that Killian had gone to the library to pick out specifically to bring to read to her son and she just can’t handle this stupid, sweet man.
Emma jumps and turns away from staring at them. “With who?”
Ruby rolls her eyes. “Killian you idiot, who do you think?”
“I am not going to date anyone right now Ruby, I’ve told you before – ”
“Uh Emma,” Ruby cuts her off. “I didn’t say anything about dating;you’re the one who’s thinking that.” Ruby winks at her and Emma rolls her eyes. “Plus you’ve been staring at the two of them with doey eyes for the last half hour while your other table has been trying to get your attention.”
Emma snaps her head back towards Ruby, having unintentionally gone back to staring at them. She huffs but doesn’t say anything as she goes to refill the drinks at one of her tables.
The next day Killian doesn’t show up and Emma keeps catching her gaze drifting over to the door, hoping he’ll come in. The afternoon seems to drag on and Killian never shows up. Emma hadn’t realized how used to his presence she’s gotten until it’s time for her to go and Granny comes out from the back room holding her dozing son.
The next day is her day off and Emma almost considers going to the diner – but that seems a bit too desperate (she and Henry both are already growing too attached which is only going to make it harder once he decides he’s bored with them and leaves) so they spend the day at the library instead. The next morning Emma rushes around and gets to work on time for the first time since Henry’s started teething.
She knows when she gets there that she’s stupid to have rushed because Killian never comes in before noon anyway. But the afternoon comes and goes with no annoyingly attractive accented visitors. The rest of that whole week goes by in the same manner. By Friday afternoon Emma is in a terribly foul mood, one of her moods where Granny threatens to break out the crossbow if Emma snaps at one more customer. Emma can’t help it though, she just woke up on the wrong side of the bed – she doesn’t know why (she totally knows why).
Towards the last half hour of her shift Emma is well and truly peeved, not at Killian for not showing up at all this week, but at herself for letting it get to her like this. She’s attacking the counter with more than enough force to break something less sturdy, when the bell above the door chimes. Emma doesn’t even bother looking up. Ruby had been dealing with most of the customers this afternoon anyway, for their own wellbeing. So Emma’s more than surprised when someone sits down at the counter directly in front of where she’s cleaning. She’s about to tell the customer off when she looks up directly into Killian’s eyes.
“Hello love,” he says with a sheepish smile. “Did you miss me?”
Emma’s heart swoops at the sight of him – which she quickly squashes. She shrugs noncommittally.
“Where’ve you been?” she asks attempting to sound nonchalant, and failing.
He smirks at her, his smug smile telling her he knows exactly why she was in a bad mood. “I had to go away for business, usually the shipping company can handle things without me, but once in a while the boss has to step in to avoid catastrophe. It was a last minute sort of thing, or else I would’ve told you.”
“You don’t have to tell me, you don’t owe me anything,” Emma says, scrubbing the counter a bit too harshly.
He raises a brow but doesn’t push her. “Where’s the little lad, I’ve missed him,” he says, but the way he looks at her says that Henry wasn’t the only one he missed – and suddenly it’s too much. The way his absence made her feel, the way his return does, and the knowledge that he’d missed her – it’s all too much and Emma needs to run.
“Let me get him,” she says, fleeing to the back room without giving him a chance to respond.
“Henry,” Emma says in a falsely cheerful voice to her little boy, “guess who’s here?
He smiles up at her and gurgles, still not yet getting the hang of his words (the books say he should be talking by now, as if she doesn’t already have enough to worry about) though he does seem to understand fairly well.
“Why don’t you give Granny a break and go out front to see Killian?”
Henry takes off running with Emma watching to make sure he makes it to Killian before retreating further into the back room so she can’t be seen from the diner.
“Are you going to tell me what that was about?” Granny asks in that no nonsense voice of hers.
Emma shrugs. “Nothing,” she says as she slouches down into one of the plush chairs across from the old woman, who is still on the floor from doing a puzzle with her son. Granny groans as she stands up, leaning on the coffee table as she does so before sitting down in the chair across from Emma.
She makes a noise halfway between a growl and laugh of disbelief. “Well honey we both know that’s a lie. I know you better than to think you’ll come out with it unless I drag it out of you, so tell me what’s got you running away back here.”
Emma could pretend all she wanted, she could pretend that she was still an orphan – unloved and unloving – but that just isn’t true anymore. Ruby and Granny along with Henry have somehow become her family, and she can groan all she likes about them making her open up once in a while, but that doesn’t change the fact that she loves them.
“Killian’s back,” she says hoping to get this conversation over quickly.
“Ah,” Granny leans back in her chair with a smile that is far too knowing.
“Ah what?” Emma says defensively.
“Well that explains why you’re hiding back here.”
“I’m not hiding,” Emma grumbles, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Then why aren’t you out there doing what I’m paying you to – I’ll tell you; you’re feeling confused because you were in a piss poor mood all week and wouldn’t let yourself know why, and now that boy is back and you’re feeling much happier which, knowing you, means that you’re trying to over analyze why you’re feeling happier. And I’ll bet you’re starting to think that maybe you let too much of your happiness ride on that man over there, but I’ll tell you what.” Granny huffs a breath and waits until Emma meets her gaze before continuing.
“I have never met a more sweet man in my life, and he can deny it and cover it up with as much swagger as he wants, but I can see the truth in people and he is kind and completely infatuated with you and your boy. So the way I see it you can continue to hide back here forever until you’re as old and grey as I am and I’m as dead as a doornail, or you can drag you smart ass out into that diner”
Emma opens her mouth to object, but Granny cuts her off, “you don’t have to date him, I’m not saying that, but you do have to talk to the poor man.”
Emma sighs, Granny was able to put everything she is feeling into words, not that she’ll ever admit that out loud. Emma stands up and pats Granny on the shoulder. Granny taps Emma’s hand with her own before nudging her a bit towards the diner.
Emma takes a bolstering breath and walks back into the diner. The moment she spots them her heart feels like it is going to burst. Henry’s sitting on Killian’s lap cuddling both him and a stuffed duck while Killian is looking at him with adoration clear on his face.
As soon as Henry sees Emma he scrambles down from Killian’s lap and runs towards her. He holds up the duck to show her with a broad grin on his face. “Baa da,” he jabbers gibberish at her.
“Ooh, what do you have there Henry?” She bends down to scoop him up but he runs away towards Killian and lifts his arms to be picked up.
Killian bends down and picks him up, carrying him over to Emma. “You alright love?” he asks cautiously.
“Yeah I’m fine.” Emma clears her throat. “Thanks for bringing Henry the duck, I have a feeling it’ll be a new favorite.”
Henry buries his face in Killian’s neck with his new toy duck clutched between them. Killian is looking at her like she’s the best thing he’s seen all day and Emma’s heart is fluttering far too fast in response. She cannot handle the way her son seems so at home in his arms – and the fact that he brought back a stuffed animal for her son – she can’t breathe with all these feelings pressing in on her chest.
Her shift is technically over, but she can stay. Killian is smiling dumbly at her, as though he doesn’t even realize that he’s doing it. She is warring with herself and she wants to stay – but she just can’t, even after everything Granny said.
“Well thanks again Killian, but my shift’s over so we should probably get going.” She reaches out to take Henry from him.
His smile falls from his face and she her heart seizes painfully at the thought that she’s the reason for it. “Not a problem. I had a feeling he’d like a little duck.” He shifts to give Henry to her, but her stubborn, stubborn boy clings to Killian like a little monkey, arms wrapped tightly around his neck and feet twisted around his middle.
Killian clears his throat uncomfortably. “Come now lad, time to go home with your mum.” Killian shifts again trying to get Henry to let go, but his grip is firm.
“You could come with us,” Emma says before her brain can catch up with her words and once they’re out she can’t stop talking. “If you want, that is. I mean, you don’t have to. I’m sure you have something better to do, we were just going to go to the park but – ”
“Swan,” Emma stopped rambling and looked at him. “I’d love to come.”
Emma’s stomach swoops and a smile blooms on her face that she can’t seem to bite back (though she isn’t sure she wants to). By the time they reach the park Henry still hasn’t let Killian go, babbling nonsense at him as though telling Killian about everything he missed. And of course – of course Killian has to be completely adorable about it and nod and smile back as though he understands.
Once they are within sight of the duck pond Henry starts to wriggle to be let down. Killian obliges and the moment Henry’s feet hit the ground he takes off running towards the pond. Killian makes this adorable panicked squeaking sound before running after him.
“It’s fine Killian,” Emma almost laughs at the scene of Killian half bent chasing after Henry who is completely oblivious. “Henry knows not to go in, plus I think it’s all of five inches deep at the edge and we’re both right here.”
Killian stops and stands up straight, as a blush creeps up his neck. He tugs at his ear. “Right. Sorry I just didn’t want him to fall in.” He clears his throat and looks away from Henry towards her.
Emma smirks at him. “Contrary to what Ruby may tell you, Henry has been outside of the diner before.” She nudges her shoulder against his. “Wehave been to the park before.”
“Of course,” he smiles and nudges her back, looking at Henry.
Henry’s sitting at the edge of the pond plucking blades of grass and throwing them into the water.
Suddenly Henry starts to look like he’s about to run into the water after his duck – which he just launched into the water at a little flock of actual ducks.
“Henry,” Emma says running to him and scooping him up into her arms before he can get into the water. “why’d you throw your duck into the water?”
“So it could swim with the other ducks of course,” Killian says plopping onto the ground next to Emma and Henry. “Right lad?”
Emma looks down at him. “What are you doing?” Emma asks him, bouncing in place in an attempt to sooth Henry.
Killian stands up and steps into the water.
“Jones!” Emma shouts at him as he wades into the water towards where the duck is sinking. “What in the world are you doing? The pond wasfrozen a week ago.”
“I’m on a rescue mission Swan.” He reaches the center where the duck has landed, the water reaching mid-thigh. He dips down trying to keep his head out of the water as he reaches down as far as he can with his arm. “Aha! Gotcha.”
He half swims half wades back over to them with a very wet, somewhat muddy duck in his hand. His pants are completely drenched when he steps back on land and the right sleeve of his shirt is soaked as well. When his feet touch the grass he shakes off like a dog, letting a fine spray of water splash on Emma and Henry.
Henry giggles and reaches out for his duck. Emma laughs, “you’re crazy, you know that, right?”
He smiles at her. “I think your duck needs a bath before you can play with it Henry.”
“I’ll throw it in the wash when we get home,” Emma says, shifting Henry to a more comfortable position. “Maybe it’s time to leave. I’m sure you must be freezing.”
“I’m fairly positive a hug would warm me up,” he says mischievously stalking towards them with his arms outstretched.
Emma laughs and dodges past him with Henry giggling madly. “No no no, you wouldn’t dare get Henry wet, he could catch a chill.” Emma says diplomatically as she and Killian run circles around each other in the park.
“Henry wouldn’t mind, would you lad?” Killian says teasingly.
“No.” The word spills from Henry’s mouth as easily as if he has said it a thousand times – Emma and Killian stop in their tracks.
Emma meets Killian’s gaze before she looks at Henry. “What’d you say Henry?” Emma asks.
“No. No no no no,” he chants the word with a self-satisfied smile on his face.
Emma grins broadly back at him. She spins Henry around, holding him out in her arms like he is flying. When she stops Killian has reached them and wraps them both in an exuberant hug that lifts Emma’s feet off the ground for a moment.
“I figured his first word would be mom,” Emma says, as Killian sets her back on the ground and releases her.
“Aye,” Killian says, “me too.
“Mamama ma ma ma,” Henry babbles reaching a sticky hand up to touch her face.
Emma can’t remember feeling so proud in her life.
“Guess he’s been holding out on us.” Killian smiles as he hands Emma the sopping wet duck. “I suppose I should get going, since I’m getting rather cold, and I’m sure you two don’t want me to infringe upon your entire evening off.”
Killian ruffles Henry’s hair and turns to leave. He’s only walked three steps before Emma finds herself calling after him. “Killian,” she says, waiting for him to turn around. She wants to be brave, she wants to go home and order pizza and watch old Disney cartoons and make up for how much she’s missed him this week – she wants him to stay – and that scares her. So she says, “thanks.”
He nods at her, “anytime Swan.”
After spending the afternoon with Killian at the park Emma is no longer content only seeing Killian at the diner. And while that scares her, she just tells herself it’s because he is nice and funny and a good friend andnothing more. So once her shift ends the Saturday after the pond incident, Emma takes a fortifying breath and walks up to Killian. He is sitting in a booth reading Henry a story (with a book he bought for Henry because he wasn’t already perfect enough) and looks up at her approach.
She sees a flicker of disappointment cross his face as he closes the book and picks Henry up off his lap, clearly thinking that she is going to take her son and leave like she has a million times before – like her brain is stubbornly trying to get her heart to do.
“Hey,” she says quickly, before she can change her mind, “would you maybe want to hang out with me and Henry tomorrow – not like – not like on a date or anything – just to make up for the whole pond incident – just two friends,” she clears her throat, oh god she’s really screwing this up, “well three friends, spending the afternoon together. We could go to the playground or something – ” oh god is she still talking, why is she still talking? She clamps her mouth shut and bounces from foot to foot uncomfortably waiting for his response.
“I happily accept Swan,” he smiles and his entire face brightens, “on one condition.”
Emma lets out a little nervous laugh, reaching for Henry who is babbling ma ma ma ma at her and reaching his arms up to be held (now that he’d said his first word it’s as if a dam broke). “What’s that?”
“I get to plan our outing,” his smile is devilish and full of innuendo.
Emma smiles a little nervously, shifting Henry in her arms, “as long as it’s appropriate for a one year old.”
“Deal,” he says, eyes sparkling with mirth.
After giving him her number (and isn’t that a big, scary thing for her – even if he doesn’t realize it) and planning on meeting in the park at two the next day they part ways.
The entire next morning Emma can’t help but feel a little anxious, unable to fully commit to doing anything before flitting to a different task. Finally at two she and Henry leave for the park – she’s bundled up in her red jacket against the brisk spring wind and Henry is clutching his stuffed duck (he hasn’t set the thing down since it’d been washed and returned to him).
Killian is already waiting for them by the entrance to the park. Henry squirms in her arms the moment he sees Killian. Emma sets him down and walks behind him as he runs to Killian. Killian crouches down with his arms out so that Henry can run straight into them. Killian falls backwards pretending the force of Henry’s hug knocked him over and the nerves Emma had all morning disappear.
She begins to walk past them into the park.
“Where’re you headed love?” Killian asks, scooping Henry up into his arms (upside-down and Henry is laughing hysterically).
She looks at him quizzically. “The park,” she says slowly.
“We aren’t going to the park – where’s the surprise in that.” He turns Henry right-side up and sets him on his shoulders.
She lets him lead the way as they walk to the edge of town. Once out of the main part of town they head down a well-worn footpath through a sparsely wooded forest into a clearing with a quaint little farmhouse and large fenced area.
“You know,” Emma says, ignoring the sparks she feels rush up her arm as it brushes against his, “if you were going to murder us you probably shouldn’t pick a place so cozy looking.”
He rolls his eyes at her. “I’m not going to kill you Emma,” a cold chill dances up her spine the same moment he says her name – it is definitely a cold chill because of the cold, not a shiver because of the way he says her name – nope definitely not. “I’ve a friend who owns this farmhouse and he is kind enough to let us come pet the animals – a makeshift petting zoo if you will.”
Emma stops walking and stares at him, her heart pounding loudly in her chest and she can’t breathe – this man, it’s too good to be real – he is too good to be real. Killian sets Henry down beside him and grabs one of his little gloved hands, Henry reaches up and takes Emma’s hand with his other one and that shakes her back to herself. She has to stoop a little to be able to hold Henry’s hand, her back definitely will not be thanking her tomorrow, but at least she isn’t Killian, he is standing half hunched over, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
As they walked towards the house Killian swings his arm and gets her to too, so Henry goes swinging up into the air – giggling loudly. The act is so familial that it sends a sharp pain through Emma’s chest, but she pushes it down and out of her mind – she is going to enjoy a day with her son and her friend and not think about anything deeper than that.
Killian’s friends who own the house, David and his wife Mary Margaret, are both of course very friendly and kind. They give them a tour of their little menagerie, letting Henry pet their baby goat and even putting up with him chasing a few of their ducklings. The day is too perfect and too everything.
David and Mary Margaret even insist they stay for dinner and somehow it just feels right sitting beside them at the table, Henry sitting proudly on a makeshift booster seat out of a couple old phone books and absolutely eating up the attention Mary Margaret is giving him.
They don’t leave until it is far past Henry’s bedtime and the poor kid has fallen asleep on David and Mary Margaret’s couch. Emma goes to pick him up as they leave, but Killian gets there first.
“Allow me love,” he says, gently cradling Henry to his chest as he picks him up, “it is my fault we stayed out so far past his bedtime anyway.”
Emma nods her acquiescence and thanks Mary Margaret and David for their hospitality before following Killian out into the quiet night. They speak softly on the walk back to her apartment (when they reached town she only considered parting ways there for a moment before leading the way to her apartment). Killian moves to trade Henry over into her arms as they reach her door, but she opens the door for them instead.
“It’ll only wake him,” she says softly as she leads the way into her apartment – wishing that she’d thought to clean up. “You can just set him down in his crib.”
Emma leads the way to Henry’s room followed closely by Killian. Killian gently lowers Henry into the crib before pushing back his hair from his forehead and placing a gentle kiss there.
He pulls back quickly, looking at Emma sheepishly and scratching behind his ear as though he’s unsure if that level of affection is allowed. “Well I suppose I should get going.”
Emma nods and walks him to the door. “I had a nice time today Killian, Mary Margaret and David are great.”
He smiles at her and looks like he wants to hug her (she desperately hopes he will) but settles for patting her shoulder instead.
“We should do this again sometime,” he says, ducking his head in an uncharacteristic show of shyness.
She smiles back at him, letting herself feel the butterflies fluttering like mad in her stomach for a moment. “I’d like that.”
One Sunday afternoon becomes two and somehow before Emma even realizes, they’ve fallen into a routine. It’s never exactly the same, sometimes they go to the park (not letting Henry anywhere near the water if he’s got his little duck in his hand), or the playground, and she cannot even handle the library because Killian heads straight to the children’s reading corner and Henry sits on his lap and listens to the whole story without fidgeting – which is nothing short of a miracle.
Almost six weeks after their first Sunday spent together is the first day that it’s storming out. Emma calls Killian to tell him that she doesn’t want to take Henry out in such bad weather – even if the library is an option. Emma can’t help but feel a little disappointed – especially when she gets off the phone and Henry has already put his shoes on (the wrong feet) and says, “Go? momma go?”
His vocabulary had expanded exponentially since his first word and she is pretty sure that he can understand most of what is said at this point. “No baby, not today.”
He starts to pout and looks like he is about to throw a fit, so she scoops him up in her arms and attacks him with kisses. He giggles and tries to squirm out of her arms.
Even with her best effort, Henry is in a mood most of the day, and she hasn’t gotten a moment to rest with her feet up. Around four in the afternoon the doorbell rings. Killian is standing there when she opens it, sheepishly tugging at his ear.
“Hi Swan, I don’t know if this is crossing a line, I just missed seeing you and the lad today and I know you didn’t invite me here – I brought takeout though,” he holds up the box of pizza in his arms, “though I was pacing the lobby of your building so long trying to figure out if this would come off as creepy or not that it might be cold by now –”
Emma laughs and grabs him by the arm, pulling him into her apartment. “It’s fine,” she says, surprising herself – a year ago he would have been kneed in the balls and the police would have been called.
But she knows him, she knows that he likes pancakes at three in the afternoon, that he hasn’t got any family either, that he is sweet with her son, and has been nothing but kind to the both of them. So she smiles and lets him in, (in more way than one) feeling lighter than she has all day.
Henry notices Killian’s presence a moment after he sets the pizza box down on the counter and comes barreling over to him chanting “hi, hi, hi, hi.” The ease with which her son reaches his arms up and Killian embraces him will never cease to astound her.
Sometimes she feels this twinge in her chest – not an unpleasant feeling – just different, calming, and sort of peaceful when Killian’s around. And seeing Henry bury his face in Killian’s neck is a surefire way to have that feeling settle deep within her. They eat together and Emma is sure her table hasn’t ever felt so full. After dinner Killian delays leaving, and if Emma is being honest with herself, she doesn’t want him to leave yet either.
They are both stalling, standing near the door, but neither moving when Henry comes over pushing a dvd box at Killian’s legs. Killian bends over and takes the box from Henry.
“Peter Pan? Nice choice lad. Do you want to watch it?” He looks at Emma as he speaks – always checking with her.
Emma nods her permission and they put the movie on, all three of them settling on the only couch in the apartment – with Henry (stuffed duck clutched under his arm) between them. Halfway through the movie Henry falls asleep with his head on Killian’s lap and his feet tucked up against Emma’s side.
Emma glances up when Killian whispers something she can’t make out.
“You don’t have to whisper you know,” Emma says. “The first year of Henry’s life was spent above Granny’s, so it’s safe to say that he can sleep through anything.”
He chuckles at that and they turn their attention back to the movie.
“I used to date a lass named Tinkerbell,” Killian says – almost a little bit too casually.
“Seriously?” Emma asks incredulously.
Killian chuckles a little and bumps his foot against hers. “Her parents were … unconventional.” His smile is tinged with melancholy.
Emma doesn’t really want to pry – who’s she kidding, she’s maddeningly curious. “What happened to her?”
He looks away from her and strokes Henry’s hair back away from his face for a moment filled with silence. Emma feels that tingle again (she has to suppress the urge to dig the heel of her palm into her chest). She waits; she’s told him the synopsis of her tragic backstory, the generic version, skimming over some of the shittier parts. He’s reciprocated a bit too, but she gets the feeling that there is more to it than just being an orphan too.
He keeps his gaze averted from her as he speaks, “there weren’t many group homes where I grew up. So more often than not we’d stumble upon each other when bouncing from home to home – we were best friends for a long time. She did have parents though, they’d show up to wreak havoc in her life every once in a while, claiming to be clean – but she always ended up back in the homes with me.” He clears his throat. “Eventually we started dating.
“After my brother died she wanted to run away together. I was stupid, told her I was going to enlist in the navy – that running away wasn’t the answer – saying everything my stubborn brother would’ve. She saw right through that – and told me so.” He starts picking at the fabric of the couch beneath his arm. “We got into a fight, I went to bed and the next morning she was gone. I never saw her again.” There is a low gravelly tone to his voice as he speaks.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, the words feeling hollow and empty as they spill from her lips. She reaches out and squeezes his hand.
He finally looks at her then and there is this deep rooted pain in his gaze that’s a mirror of her own. Slowly, as though she is a deer about to flee, he turns his hand over and twines their fingers together. Emma’s heart is pounding wildly in her chest, she’s sure he can feel the fluttering of her heartbeat in the pulse of her fingers clasped tightly against his.
Her hand in his feels good, it feels right, and it is too much. And of course the panic that is never far from the surface of her happiness rears its ugly head. She breaks his gaze, turning back to the movie still flickering across the screen and slips her fingers from his. She sees him deflate a little from the corner of her eye, but keeps her gaze firmly planted on the screen.
They are quiet for a while until it’s almost the end of the movie and Henry shifts in his sleep so that his feet dig into Emma’s side.
“Why do you get his head all cute and cuddly, and he pokes his feet into me?” Emma complains, trying to lighten the mood, the melancholy from earlier still lingering.
“Because he likes me best.” Killian says, smirking at her, and just like that things are lighthearted between them again (Emma almost heaves a sigh of relief).
“Uh huh, sure buddy.” Emma shifts so Henry’s feet are no longer digging into her. “I’m not saying he likes you best – but if he did, the only reason would be because I’m the one who makes him eat his vegetables and go to bed.” She reaches over Henry and shoves Killian’s shoulder lightly.
“Just say the word love,” he said with a devious smile, “and I’ll let you be the fun parent.” As soon as the words leave his mouth he freezes, realizing a moment too late the implications of his words.
Emma’s eyes widen and she jolts up from the couch, unintentionally rousing Henry.
“Emma,” her first name coming from his lips is too much and oh godshe can’t, she just can’t. “I just meant – ” he heaves in a breath, standing up as well, pulling Henry (who’s beginning to fuss at being woken up) into his arms. “I was just kidding around, I didn’t mean anything – ”
She clears her throat and cuts him off. “I should probably get Henry to bed,” she says, studiously avoiding Killian’s eye as she takes Henry from his arms.
She turns her back to him, unable to curb the panic welling up just beneath her breastbone and she can’t breathe, there is a weight pushing in on her and she can’t breathe.
“I’ll see you at the diner later,” she says as a dismissal and runs away to Henry’s room without even waiting for a response.
On Monday they both act like she didn’t completely freak out on him the night before. Sure, he’s a little bit more cautious, a little more reserved with his flirtatious jokes and his teasing, but he still looks at her like she’s someone special (and it still gives her butterflies).
She pushes down her panic – she’s used to doing that anyway. She chooses not to think about what Killian thinks they are, refuses to think about him as anything more than a friend – because if she does she’s not sure what she’d find out and what they have now is good – really good. And changing things will just screw things up and that wouldn’t be fair to either of them – or to Henry, at least that’s what she tells herself.
So she flirts a little back, and by the end of the week everything feels normal again. Her laugh comes a little easier and her smiles are a bit less guarded than before. So she still invites him to spend Sunday with them at the playground and they end up back at her place for takeout and a movie night again (this time it’s Snow White and this time there are no unintentional half declarations), and it’s perfect.
Soon enough rather than just spending Sunday afternoons together, it’s somehow morphed into the entire day. They start out at the park or library, or even David and Mary Margaret’s again, then go back to her apartment for dinner (always takeout because who is she kidding) and some games, a puzzle, or a movie and just thinking about it causes a smile to flicker to life on her face and her heart to skip.
Almost eight months after originally meeting him, Killian brings over ingredients to make them dinner one Sunday (because you’re going to die with all this takeout Swan, and I’m really just looking out for you). And hecooks for her, for them. Emma has never had anyone in her life make something special just for her (Granny doesn’t count because that woman would feed entire armies if they fell onto her doorstep) and of course he makes her favorite dish – that she only ever mentioned in once passing.
It feels a little bit like a date (chaperoned by her toddler) and she ignores that. She likes that it feels like a date. She ignores that too. They have her favorite, grilled cheese and tomato soup – not master chef worthy or anything – but it’s her favorite and that he even remembered is more than enough to make her unable to get rid of a stupid, goofy smile. He gets distracted watching her dancing with Henry in the living room and burns the first grilled cheese, she snorts when she laughs, and Henry gets soupeverywhere, and it’s absolutely perfect.
At least it’s perfect until he’s about to leave and she gets a phone call from an unknown number. She answers it as Henry assaults Killian with a hug and string of ‘bye’s (his vocabulary is much bigger now, but still is yet to include Killian – the name just a tad too difficult she suspects).
“Emma Swan?” a male voice says in a far too serious tone to bode well.
“This is she,” she says.
“This is Victor Whale from Storybrooke General Hospital. You are Ruby and Mrs. Lucas’ secondary emergency contact. There has been an accident; Ruby and Mrs. Lucas were hit head on by a drunk driver. Ruby has broken an arm and two ribs. Mrs. Lucas is unconscious and we cannot determine how permanent damage may be until she wakes. I think you’d best get here soon.”
She isn’t even sure if she says anything before hanging up, all she knows is that the only family she’s ever known is in the hospital and if the way the doctor urged her to come as soon as possible is any indication, things don’t look very good.
Killian has clearly caught on to something bad having happened, holding Henry just a little more tightly than usual against him. “What’s the matter Swan?”
“Granny and Ruby are in the hospital. Ruby will be fine but – ” she can’t finish that sentence, the words come out choked and garbled and she swallows them back.
“Nana?” Henry smiles at her, blissfully ignorant to the turmoil churning in Emma’s stomach.
“Oh god,” Emma says, feeling as though she’s going to be sick. This,this is why she shouldn’t get close to people – it only ever ends in pain. And now Henry’s going to feel this pain too. And as soon as the thoughts are formed, she feels guilt swelling in her stomach; she’s acting as though the woman is already dead when she doesn’t even really know how she is. All she knows is that she has to get to that hospital. “Henry can’t see her like that,” she whispers horrified.
“I’ll look after him Swan. It’ll be okay,” he takes her hand and squeezes it – the effect immediately calming her, if only a little. And suddenly she’s struck with the burning desire for him to hug her and hold her and tell her everything’s going to be alright, but they aren’t dating and he just says, “I’ll watch Henry. You go be with your family – they need you.”
She hesitates a moment before leaning forward and kissing Killian on the cheek. Her face burns hot when she pulls away, but she ignores the sensation and presses a kiss to Henry’s cheek as well.
She bursts into the hospital with the force of a whirlwind. Within moments she’s led to Granny’s room and she’s never seen the woman look so fragile. She goes to see Ruby, who is absolutely fuming that they won’t let her out of bed to see her grandmother. After one conversation with Emma, the nurses let Ruby have free reign. The two of them stand vigil in Granny’s cramped room all night.
Ruby takes the spare bed that Emma
forces coerces a doctor into getting for them, while Emma sleeps curled up in the chair (which sadly is not the worst place she’s ever had to spend the night). Granny wakes up around four in the morning – raging about all the wires and cords hooked up to her, and completely herself. Emma feels like she wants to cry in relief – Ruby does.
Granny forces Emma to go home, yelling at her for staying up and in the hospital in the first place. She lets herself in to her apartment and Killian is asleep on the couch with Henry on his chest and Emma absolutely cannot handle the feelings rushing at her, especially after the day she’s had, so she takes a picture, just the one and heads to her bed.
When she wakes up in the morning she heads out into the kitchen where Killian and Henry are making pancakes.
He rushes over to her as soon as he sees her. “Swan,” he says breathlessly. “How are they?”
“Good, they’re good. They’re both going to be okay,” she says.
He lets out a sigh of relief and embraces her, his arms are so so warm and safe that she almost feels the emotions she’s pushed down all day spilling out, but then he’s pulling back and leading her into the kitchen and she pulls herself together again.
Henry is elated to see her, and absolutely covered from head to toe in flour.
She looks to Killian with a little smirk.
He shrugs a little sheepishly and says, “we were making pancakes Swan – getting messy is part of the process.”
She sits on a barstool at her counter watching Killian cook for her – again, and Henry “helping” while just getting flour everywhere. The pancakes are delicious and Killian has a bit of flour stuck on his nose. Emma wants to kiss it off him – and where did that thought come from?
Killian apologizes for getting Henry so messy and so together they give him a bath. Henry starts to pat the water gently and Emma knows that evil little look. She steps back from the tub warning Killian Henry’s about to splash them. Killian shouts ‘I’ll save you Swan’ and jumps in front of her a moment before Henry splashes water everywhere.
Killian is soaking wet and laughing as he catches Emma around the waist before she can run. He pulls her to him for an absolutely soaking wet hug while she laughs and pushes him away. He picks her up from behind and holds her like a shield in front of him.
“Get her Henry!” he yells, as she squirms in his arms, “get her.”
Henry thinks this whole thing is absolutely hilarious and is still getting water everywhere, including Emma. Emma twists out of Killian’s arms and grabs the little bucket she rinses Henry’s hair with and dumps it over Killian’s head.
His jaw drops open and he wipes the water out of his eyes. He looks at her mischievously and begins stalking towards her. “You’re in trouble now Swan,” he says, grabbing hold of the shower head and pulling it close to him aiming it at her like a hose.
“Now Killian,” she says backing away from him slowly, “you like me too much to get me wet, don’t you?” She asks, not realizing the double entendre of her words.
“Well,” he says, reaching down to the faucet. “That’s exactly why I’m going to get you drenched.”
“No!” Emma laughs and launches towards him as he turns on the faucet drenching her. Emma fights Killian for the shower head, getting the entire bathroom soaking wet – but she can’t find it in herself to care.
Once they calm down Emma gets Killian and Henry towels while she goes to her room to change into dry clothes. When she returns to the bathroom Henry is dressed and the water is almost completely mopped up with one of the towels – but she doesn’t really notice either of those things because Killian Jones is standing shirtless in her bathroom – as if her fantasies needed any more fuel.
After she stops ogling him, Emma throws his shirt in the dryer. She offers him one of her oversized t-shirts, but he refuses and she knows it’s because he notices her staring; the stupid, hot bastard.
Granny and Ruby make a relatively quick recovery and soon it’s Henry’s second birthday. They celebrate at Granny’s. Ruby, Granny, and Killian are there of course (and Emma can’t even bring herself to worry over the fact that somewhere over the past year Killian has become one of her ‘of course’ people too), Mary Margaret and David come too. It’s quaint and cute and Henry has a blast if his sugar high is anything to go by.
They all sit around in a circle as Henry unwraps his toys. Every time he opens a gift he starts playing with it, completely unconcerned about the next gift until someone prods him by placing it into his hands.
Once Henry opens Killian’s gift, a big book of fairytales, Emma tells Henry to say thank you.
Henry says, “thank you,” and begins flipping the pages of the book roughly.
“Gentle Henry,” Emma says, redirecting his attention to a more durable toy (a truck from Mary Margaret and David) that requires less care.
“Aww,” Killian says when his name doesn’t follow the thank you like it had for all the other gifts. “Come on Henry, say Killian, you can do it.”
Henry ignores him and continues playing with the toy truck.
“You know I’m beginning to feel singled out here,” he says in mock distress to Emma.
“Don’t worry, he loves you. Killian is just a hard name to say.”
“No harder to say than Mary Margaret,” he grumbles, slouching down into his chair.
They group chats and Henry plays with each of his new toys, and when Killian sits down to read a fairytale, Henry isn’t the only one enraptured. They all listen as Killian spins a tale – a version of Snow White that is vastly different than any one she’s ever heard before.
Just as Killian finishes the story, a beautiful blonde woman comes bursting into the diner. Her eyes dance around wildly for a moment before landing on Killian. Her face practically explodes into a broad, beaming smile.
“Killian!” she yells, running straight towards him. He is standing there dumbstruck for a moment before he rushes to meet her.
They collide in a hug that almost knocks him off of his feet and the woman literally jumps into his arms, legs curling around him as she laughs breathlessly. He sets her down, and the way he looks at her – well Emma imagines it’s quite similar to the way he usually looks at her.
“Tink!” he says, pure joy lighting up his face. “Where’ve you been? How’d you end up here?”
Emma’s heart sinks.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she smiles and drags him to sit with her in a booth.
For a long time they just talk and talk, catching up on all they missed. Apparently Tink’s parents came back for her the morning after their fight so she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. They took her away so the social workers wouldn’t take her again. Her life was hell and she ran away, but by the time she got back to the home they used to share, he was gone and she couldn’t track him down. It wasn’t until about a month ago that she saw an article about the Jolly Roger shipping company and knew it was his.
They almost completely ignore the rest of the partygoers (none of whom seem nearly as concerned about it as Emma), and Emma can’t help but feel a little forgotten. A moment after her selfish thought forms she feels guilty, Killian finally found a long lost childhood friend – one of his closest it seems, and all she can think about is herself.
It’s only when she thanks everyone for coming and is about to leave with Henry that Killian seems to remember her. He stands abruptly, stopping them before they can go.
“Tink,” he says gesturing at the woman, “this is my – this is Emma Swan and her son Henry. Emma this is Tinkerbell Green.”
Emma forces a smile and takes the other woman’s outstretched hand – and why is this bothering her so much? (She knows why) “Killian’s told me all about you,” Emma says in what she hopes is a pleasant voice. “I’m glad to finally put a face – ” (an unfairly beautiful face) “– to the name.”
Even though Emma can tell Killian wants her to stay, she books it out of there and practically runs with Henry back to their apartment. She should be happy for him. It’s not as though they’re dating. She has no claim to him. And if being with his old flame will make him happy, she should step aside and let him be happy (at least that’s what she’s trying to convince herself).
When he comes in to the diner the next day he isn’t alone, and Emma isn’t sure how to handle that. She remains polite in greeting, but begs Ruby to take their table. Ruby obliges (but calls her an idiot and says only just this once because he’s clearly in love with you – you know that right? Emma pretends not to hear her).
Killian seems disappointed that she doesn’t sit with them, but that doesn’t stop Henry from rushing out to greet him, saying hi about a million times. Tink has this sort of childlike quality about her and Henry is absolutely taken – especially when she says her name is Tinkerbell – and the woman appears fond of him too. This is the worst thing that could’ve possibly happened because how is Emma supposed to hate a woman who is clearly so terribly sweet and kind?
Killian approaches the counter, leaving Henry and Tink to their coloring at the table as Emma attacks the spotless counter. “Are you alright there Swan?” he asks.
“Yeah,” she says angrily, and god why can’t she just be a normal human being for once. “I’m fine. I’ve got nothing to be not fine about.”
“Swan,” he leans across the counter so their faces are only inches apart. She stops scrubbing and meets his gaze, breath hitching at the intensity there. “Tink and I dated quite briefly – and always thought we were better off friends. She’s moving here to be close to me because I’m the only family she’s got – but there’s not and won’t be anything more going on.”
His breath puffs across her face and she cannot think straight with him so close – so why is it that she finds herself leaning an inch closer. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me Jones. You can do whatever or whoever you please.” The words come out bitter and false – she knows it and she’s pretty sure by the small smile blooming on his face that he knows it too.
“Whatever you say Swan,” he says, leaning in a hair’s breadth closer – close enough that Emma’s heart stutters and she half closes her eyes – before he pulls away completely and saunters back to his table.
“Bastard,” she mumbles under her breath, beginning to scrub at the counter again.
It’s at least a week before Emma finally decides to actively like Tink. The woman is smart, and witty, and sweet to her and to Henry. She also gives Killian and Emma space too, only coming into the diner with Killian once or twice a week, and never infringing upon their Sunday plans, unless specifically invited.
One Sunday, a month after Henry’s birthday it’s finally it’s warm enough to go sailing like Killian keeps suggesting. It’s just the three of them and Emma’s glad. It isn’t that she doesn’t like actually having friends in her life for once, but after spending more than half her life alone, being around a lot of people can get overwhelming.
They sail away from the docks and out onto the open water, with Henry bundled up in a child’s lifejacket and absolutely beaming. Killian lets both Henry and Emma take a turn at steering and Emma has to admit there is something magical about being out on the water. Killian packed them all lunches, so around noon they weigh anchor and have a little picnic on deck.
There’s just a hint of summer in the air and a pleasant breeze on the water. Henry is all smiles and laughter, growing bigger each and every day, and Killian – Killian has grown bolder ever since Tink showed up in town. Emma revealed too much of herself that day, but if this is how he responds to her jealousy protectiveness then she isn’t complaining.
He comes over sometimes after her shift at the diner, or they go over to his place. When they watch a movie together, all three of them, he pulls Henry into his lap so he can sit beside her – with his arm slowly drifting from the back of the couch to her shoulders throughout the movie, so she ends up snuggled into him without even realizing.
And today – today it seems as though being out on the water has brought out a different man in him. One who will grab her hand and lead her throughout the whole ship. One who stands behind her and whispers directions in her ears as she steers. A man who is easy with his affection and the effect is contagious. When they eat lunch, she reaches for him and clasps his hand, smiling up at him as the sun sparkles off the waves, and Henry squawks around like a seagull.
The day is completely, unbearably perfect, and maybe she should give him a chance – if he hasn’t given up on her. When they dock it’s almost dusk and Henry is sleepy from their exciting day. Emma stalls once they reach the beach where they’ll have to part, so Killian can head to his house and Emma to hers.
“I had a really great day Killian,” she says as they both unconsciously sway closer together.
“Aye,” he responds, gaze flicking from her lips back up to her eyes. “I did as well.”
“Henry,” Emma says to the tired boy leaning against her legs as she picks him up, “say bye.”
Henry rests his head on Emma shoulder as soon as she picks him up, but his gaze is firmly on Killian when he says, “bye dada.”
Emma freezes, unsure she heard him right, but the look of shock (and happiness?) on Killian’s face confirms it. She’s scared and she doesn’t know what to do or say and all three of them are just staring at each other mutely – so she does what she always does, and runs.
“Uh, thanks again Jones. See ya,” she says, turning on heel and booking it back to the safety of her apartment – with Henry already asleep by the time they get there.
Emma calls Ruby because she doesn’t know what else to do. She doesn’t even start with a greeting, just blurts out, “Henry called Killian dad.”
“Well hello to you too Emma,” Ruby says sarcastically.
“Ruby I’m serious, what do I do?” Emma is pacing her apartment, heart racing in time with her hurried footsteps.
“Emma, come on is it really the end of the world that Henry called Killian dad? I think if it was you would’ve already corrected him – it just is scaring you because you didn’t correct him, and you probably didn’t even want to.”
For a long moment neither of them say anything. Then Emma finally whispers, “Ruby I don’t know what I want.”
“Emma, I have seen the way he looks at you and Henry; I’ve seen the way Henry looks at him. Hell I’ve seen the way you look at him. You knowexactly what you want. You’re just too afraid to admit it.”
Emma hangs up and paces like mad before trying – and failing to get some sleep. She switches shifts with one of the other waitresses the next day and avoids seeing Killian completely – because that is a totally healthy way for her to handle her problems like an adult.
She ends up avoiding him for the rest of the week, switching shifts around and going on strategically planned breaks – without telling Ruby where she’s gone so that the traitor won’t tell him. She ignores his texts and calls – though she feels kind of guilty about that one, especially when Tink texts her asking if everything is okay because Killian has been acting strange. And who is Emma kidding – she can’t go on avoiding him forever, she’s already missing him terribly and it’s only been a week.
Henry’s napping on Sunday afternoon when he shows up at her door. He is standing there with a quiet rage radiating off of him. His hands clenched into fists at his sides. “Why are you avoiding me Swan?”
“I’m not,” she says out of reflex.
“I’m actually quite perceptive love, and this,” he says gesturing between the two of them, “this is avoiding me.”
She remains silent, unable to meet his gaze.
“At some point love you’re going to have to forgive me for Henry calling me dad,” he shouts at her.
“You think I’m mad at you because of what Henry said?” she yells back indignantly.
“Is that not what it’s about?” he asks.
She takes a deep breath and the words come spilling out of her. “I’m not mad at you because Henry called you dad, I’m mad at myself because I’m scared – I’m scared because the three of us feel like home and I can’t lose that – I can’t lose you and if we start dating things could go wrong and then where would we be?”
She can feel the tears welling up in her eyes as she tries to bite them back.
“My love,” he says, stepping closer and gently brushing a single tear from her cheek, “I’m sorry to break it to you, but I’m fairly certain by most standards we’ve been dating for a while now.”
She lets out a watery laugh. He’s standing so close to her and his gaze is so earnest and gentle and his hands are still cupping her face. She wants a family – a real one with Henry and Killian. She wants Henry to call him dad, she wants to come home to him, she wants to see him every day, she wants to kiss him, she wants, she wants, she wants.
So for once in her life, she does exactly what she wants. She leans forward and kisses him. Her lips brush against his, and he responds enthusiastically wrapping his arms around her and dragging her into him. She cards her hands through his hair, opening her mouth to him. And suddenly everything falls into place. She loves him, she loves this silly sweet man and she isn’t even sure how long she’s loved him – but all she knows is that she does and it’s perfectly imperfect and she is finally, finally home.